The Township Committee seats of Commissioner Kevin Campbell and Deputy Mayor Ed O’Malley will be vacant at the end of the year and four residents are vying for the spots, including Campbell.
A debate between the candidates will be held at the Cranford Municipal Building on Thursday evening at 8 p.m.
Campbell, who currently serves as the Public Safety commissioner, is running for re-election. Read more about him below.
NAME: Kevin Campbell
LENGTH OF TIME: Lifetime resident. Grew up in Cranford
EDUCATION: BA from Kean College in Public Admin and History; Degree from Seton Hall Law School
PROFESSIONAL: Attorney with firm in Newark
COMMUNITY & POLITICAL: Knights of Columbus; Member Township Committee
1. Please list the three most important issues facing Cranford in this election and explain your position on each.
Property Taxes: We have to keep property tax increases as low as possible. We've made some progress with this, in part thanks to the 2% cap mandated by the State. This improvement will continue; stopping the property tax juggernaut was like stopping an ocean liner, i.e. something that big wasn't going to stop on a dime. We've also regionalized some of our services, such as the Health Dept. We need to continue doing this, and to always strive to get as much from our tax dollars as possible;
Infrastructure: Thanks to combination of tight budgets during recent years and the effects of - and recovery - from Irene and Sandy, infrastructure maintenance and repairs have not received the attention they should. Again we've made progress on this: De-silting has been done and more is in works, road re-pavement is ongoing, and we're in process of developing long term capital improvement plan. We need to continue with this progress.
Flood Control: Irene was a whole new level of storm, and it showed that we can do a lot more to be prepared and reduce its effects. Cranford is working at making this a regional affair (instead of a single-community one). We've got the Army Corp of Engineers to study our flooding problem, and we're in the process of clearing the trees that fell into the River from the recent storms. We're also opposing overdevelopment in and near wetlands such as Birchwood. We need to continue these efforts.
2. How do you feel about the township committee form of government and the way in which the position of mayor is decided in the township?
We have the traditional township form of government. Its the oldest such form of government in our State, and the most democratic. This form gives voters the greatest control over their government and their elected officials. Its one drawback is that it doesn't permit a direct election of Mayor, and if the law permitted a change to direct election of mayor ONLY, I would support it. But the law doesn't allow this.
Every other form of government increases the power of the mayor OR the town manager. And that means it reduces the power of the voters.
Proponents of a change argue that it will make development easier, and provide more efficient government. I don't have a problem with development not being easy, because it forces elected officials to ensure that they have public support before they allow it. As to efficiency, I seriously doubt that the form of government has much to do with this. In my experience, its people that make something efficient or inefficient, not forms of government.
Our form of government plays a significant role in making Cranford what it is. It’s prevented any one individual from dominating the town. Because power shifts constantly, its mandated consensus and some degree of civility. Its checks grandiose schemes and mistakes by officials. It’s ensured that elected officials listen very, very carefully to the voters.
The pros of this form of government far outweigh the cons.
Had there been public support for a charter study, I would have voted in favor of it. My role as township commissioner is not to substitute my judgment for that of the voters. BUT THERE WAS NO PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR IT.
Instead, the proponents of a charter study introduced the idea immediately after the last election and during the holiday season. They did nothing to win support for the measure before the vote, or in the five months afterwards.
When the current township committee moved to repeal the charter study we begged voters to tell us how they felt. Little more than a dozen people came to our meeting to express their support or opposition; approximately a dozen more spoke to us privately on it; and roughly another one or two dozen expressed their interest through social media. All told that was only fifty or so people, and at least half of them supported not having a charter study.
Fifty or so people come to two or three-tenths of one percentage of Cranford's population. Even adjusting that number to include only adults, that still comes out to less than one percent.
Our form of government is our Constitution. It is the foundation of our municipality. It should not be changed at whim, or every few years, because a few people think its a good idea. Its too important for that, or for glib slogans.
Saying "Let the People Decide" is NOT the same thing as public support. And ignoring all those who were opposed to a charter study, while saying let-the-public-decide, is not the right way to do things.
2. Why are you running for Township Committee?
During my tenure as township commissioner, Cranford got hit with Irene, the freak-Halloween ice storm, and Sandy. The damage was immense, and we are still fixing all of it. I want to see it completed.
I am also adamantly opposed to the proposed affordable housing project at Birchwood, and I want to be in a position where my opposition can be most effective.
Finally, this is my hometown. I want to protect it from overdevelopment and urbanization, and I want to keep it the way it is and for the most part, was: A relatively small, tight-knit, family-oriented community,